Sunday, October 18, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Milwaukee Bucks

MILWAUKEE BUCKS
[] 41-41
[] Offensive Rating: 103.6 (26th)
[] Defensive Rating: 103.2 (4th)
[] Net Rating: +0.4 (16th)
[] Eliminated in 1st round of NBA playoffs
[] Coach: Jason Kidd

The Bucks were a pleasant surprise last season as their youth movement and an aggressive defense propelled the team to a surprise playoff berth.  The Bucks survived one of the league's most sluggish offenses, a midseason trade of their starting PG and an injury to starting F Jabari Parker early in the year en route to the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference.  They'll have Parker back this year, and the offseason acquisition of Greg Monroe should help the offense at least move up a few pegs on the efficiency ladder.  The PG thing could still be a problem though.  Michael Carter-Williams didn't exactly light the world on fire after being acquired from the Sixers in February.  He still struggled with his jump shot and turning the ball over, issues that don't figure to just go away in his third year.  The Bucks did pick up Greivis Vasquez over the summer, so at the very least, they have a viable insurance plan.  Also adding to the excitement for this year's Bucks season is that there's another offseason of growth tacked onto dynamic F Giannis Antetokounmpo.  The Greek Freak looked like a star at times last season, and his ability to effect the game at both ends of the floor is a big part of what the Bucks like to do.  They also brought back Khris Middleton in restricted free agency over the summer, keeping their young core fully intact.  The Bucks are on the upswing, and with a new scoring option in the post, this year figures to be better than the last.

Projected Starting Five

PG: Michael Carter-Williams - 6'6, 185 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
66
14.6
14.1
26.7%
46.1%
23.5%
.166
69.4%
.317
37.3
19.5%

If there's anybody who can take a talented young PG with great natural size for the position, but minimal refined skills, and turn him into at least a serviceable player, it's probably going to be Jason Kidd.  Carter-Williams won what was arguably the weakest ROY award in history in 2014, and followed that season up by being pretty shaky again during the 2014-15 season.  His True Shooting Percentage was down and his Turnover Rate was up last season, although that was accompanied by an improved Assist Rate.  He's never going to be a good outside shooter, and it looks like the Bucks realized that, as MCW's 3PAr was a measly .091 in his time with the team.  That came with an improved 2P% too, so he just might be able to provide average offensive value sometime soon.  On defense, the Bucks' aggressive system is a great match for Carter-Williams' length and ability to play passing lanes.

G/F: Khris Middleton - 6'7, 215 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
79
13.4
15.6
19.9%
56.3%
40.7%
.308
85.9%
.180
12.7%
10.8%

This is where positions start to get murky.  Middleton is arguably a SF in any other offense that doesn't also have Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, but he played most of his minutes at PF last season (according to B-R's PBP data) and if any of the three wings/forwards are going to be the nominal SG, it's Middleton.  He's the most capable of matching up with the opponent's two-guard, and his role in the offense should be the most similar to a SG's too.  Middleton signed a lucrative five year, $70M deal this summer, one that should look neutral or team-friendly as the cap rises.  He's a legitimate contributor at both ends of the floor, and his versatility only increases his value.

F: Jabari Parker - 6'8, 235 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
25
12.3
14.5
20.7%
52.7%
25.0%
.061
69.7%
.251
9.5%
13.9%

Parker looked like the best member of the 2014 draft class through the first two months of the season (remember, Wiggins came on strong late), until a torn ACL ended his rookie season.  That's not to say he was a world-beater, but there were some encouraging pieces in the 25 games he played.  He got the FT line a reasonable amount, shot well enough inside the arc, and rebounded the ball well (10.7 TRB%), based on the fact that B-R says most of his minutes came at SF.  His outside shooting should bump up in year two, but it's hard to say just how long it'll take for his jumper to require the defense to respect it.  Once that happens, watch out.  Either way, he has the skills to be the Bucks' 2nd or 3rd leading scorer in an offense with plenty of options in what will truly be his first full season.

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo - 6'11, 225 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
81
12.7
14.8
19.6%
55.2%
15.9%
.056
74.1%
.445
13.1%
15.6%

Antetokounmpo is mostly known for his freakish length and athleticism, but the light flickered on last season from a production standpoint.  Still only 20 years old (he won't be 21 until December), there's lots of room left for Giannis to turn into a terror at both ends.  Offensively, he upped his TS% by about 3.5 points by being way better inside the arc and continuing his parade to the FT line.  It's hard to see him upping his efficiency much more without refining his outside shot or just completely abandoning it, but as his role increases, his raw production should improve.  Also of note: an increase in both AST% and TRB% from his rookie season.  Defensively, he's exactly the kind of physical specimen Jason Kidd wants to unleash to turn other teams over and get the game into the open floor.  A 15 PPG/7.5 RPG/3.5 APG/1.5 SPG/1.5 BPG season doesn't seem far-fetched if he continues to make improvements.

C: Greg Monroe - 6'10, 255 - 6th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FT%
FTr
BLK/36
69
15.9
21.2
23.9%
54.9%
17.9%
11.2%
25.1%
75.0%
.394
0.6


It will be interesting to see how the Bucks hide Monroe on defense (they have the complementary pieces to do it), but he is exactly what this team needs on the offensive end of the floor.  While Parker and Antetokounmpo both have upside offensively, and Middleton is a super role player, Monroe can be the true go-to piece this offense needs.  The Bucks' offense trudged to 26th in efficiency last season, something that Monroe's back-to-the-basket game should help alleviate.  When all else fails, Milwaukee is going to enjoy just being able to throw it to Monroe on the block.  

Bench

PG: Greivis Vasquez - 6'6, 190 - 7th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
82
9.5
12.6
19.8%
51.4%
37.9%
.484
75.8%
.091
23.9%
13.6%

It was a bit puzzling when the Bucks sent a 2017 lottery-protected first to Toronto (and a 2015 2nd rounder that ended up being Norman Powell) for Vasquez.  He's a solid backup, and he fits the size mold the Bucks are going for, but he's not so effective that I would be willing to give up a 1st round pick for him.  We'll see how this plays out, but this trade could hurt in the long run.

PG: Tyler Ennis - 6'2, 180 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
33
3.7
7.3
20.6%
41.1%
27.9%
.299
71.4%
.049
27.3%
22.2%

Would it be irrational to say that the Bucks overpaid for Vasquez because they don't trust Ennis to play consistent minutes?  He didn't show much in his rookie year, but he's only 21, no need to panic just yet, but he needs to show improvement in year two.

G: Jerryd Bayless - 6'3, 200 - 8th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
77
7.8
11.1
18.6%
51.9%
30.8%
.233
88.3%
,266
21.0%
18.8%

The reason I don't really get the need to give up a future first round pick for Vasquez is because I don't think Bayless' best years are much worse than Vasquez's.  The three ball betrayed him a bit last year, but he should bounce back in 2015-16.  I would look for a much more useful year out of Bayless this year.

SG: Rashad Vaughn - 6'5, 190 - Rookie
GP
PPG
APG
RPG
FG%
3P%
FT%
23
17.8
1.6
4.8
43.9%
38.3%
69.4%

Vaughn had a really solid freshman season at UNLV, which he parlayed into a first round selection.  He's a pure scorer, and whether it's this year or next, the plan is for him to take over OJ Mayo's duties as the backup SG.

SG: OJ Mayo - 6'5, 210 - 8th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
71
11.4
13.5
23.6%
52.9%
35.7%
.395
82.7%
.198
19.4%
14.4%

Mayo, once a top five pick and a highly touted recruit hasn't been the stud he was projected to be in his younger days.  Nonetheless, he's a useful player who only seems less valuable because of the expectations bestowed upon him early in his career.  He's far from perfect, but this team can use his offense off the bench.  If Vaughn comes on earlier than expected, he may be a trade piece come February.

SF: Damien Inglis - 6'8, 235 - Rookie (2013-14 LNB Pro A stats)
GP
PPG
APG
RPG
FG%
3P%
FT%
27
4.6
1.0
3.6
49.5%
38.7%
72.4%

Inglis lost his rookie season to a foot injury, slowing what could be a long development process.  He's a project, but he has the physical tools to be a key player on the wing.  You don't see depth on the wings in this bench section, but each of the three starters from 2 through 4 (Middleton, Parker, Giannis) can play the wing spots.  If Inglis doesn't develop in year one, the Bucks have the flexibility to mitigate that.

F: Chris Copeland - 6'9, 230 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TRB%
50
6.2
7.4
21.3%
46.8%
31.1%
.539
73.3%
.145
9.9%
7.4%

Copeland's 2014-15 season with the Pacers came to an end after he was stabbed in a NYC nightclub in April.  His 3P% took a huge hit in his 3rd NBA season, but there's no reason to think he'll struggle again this year.  Minutes could be scarce in a crowded frontcourt, and if he's going to play meaningful minutes, they're more likely to come at SF.

PF: John Henson - 6'11, 235 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FT%
FTr
BLK/36
67
7.0
18.0
18.1%
57.8%
14.5%
11.7%
17.4%
56.9%
.396
4.0

In my opinion, Henson is one of the more undervalued players in the league.  He scores efficiently in the opportunities he sees, rebounds the ball well, and really protects the rim well.   With Greg Monroe in town, there's no path to him being a starter for the Bucks, but I'd argue he starts for something close to half of the teams in the league.  He's one of the league's best-kept frontcourt secrets.

F/C: Johnny O'Bryant - 6'9, 255 - 2nd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FT%
FTr
BLK/36
34
2.9
3.8
19.2%
37.9%
10.0%
8.2%
11.7%
44.4%
.225
0.4

O'Bryant will battle Henson and Plumlee for the reserve minutes in the frontcourt.  Improving his ineffective rookie offensive performance will be key to staying on the floor.

C: Miles Plumlee - 6'10, 250 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
FT%
FTr
BLK/36
73
4.0
13.4
12.0%
53.6%
14.8%
10.3%
19.3%
47.8%
.181
2.0

I expect Plumlee to earn the majority of the frontcourt reserve minutes that don't go to Henson.  He's not a standout in any one area, but he does enough things well to prove as an effective backup.

Outlook

The Bucks have one of the best young rosters in the league, and it doesn't seem like there's anything other than injuries that can keep this team out of the playoffs.  Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker both have star potential.  Greg Monroe is a reliable offensive option in the post, and Khris Middleton is superb at doing the important things like playing solid defense and knocking down open shots.  Add to it all that Jason Kidd seems to have found a group that can play the aggressive style of defense he wants to roll out.  If the offense can go from bottom of the barrel to somewhere around average, this is a team that can ride its defense to home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.  I'm not sure the offense gets quite to that mark, but it will be improved.  I have the Bucks down for 44 wins.

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